From Bizarre to Sublime

June 16, 2009

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Why do strange things look the way they do? These I call bizarre. Then what is sublime? That is bit harder for me to answer but I will try using the above building Sagrada Familia as an example.

At first glance, the soaring conical pinnacles and bizarre facade seem purely sculptural, more organic interpretation of the traditional Gothic Cathedral. And yet the slots in these spires lighten the structure, reduces wind loads and ventilates the confines of staircases, while evoking the notion of “inhabited sculpture” by affording glimpses of people ascending the spiral stairs: a truly ingenious integration of engineering and aesthetics. When you feel that something looks eccentric not just to be different but because it integrates so flawlessly with other elements (whatever they may be), and when you are no longer bewildered but instead completely captured by it, that is when bizarre is elevated to sublime. 

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Mushishi is how to be bizarre and still fully connect to the audience

But not all strange (even if beautiful on surface) things succeeds in making such transcendence. Unlike Sagrada Familia that use hollow towers to transform its bizarre facade into an immense acoustic organ, the eccentric shells of Sydney Opera House are there for looks and not much more. I would say the view of Sydney Opera House with harbour is sublime, but the experience of the building itself as a whole is quite shallow and unsatisfying.

There are some anime that gets a lot of flak for looking eccentric just to be different. Some might say Mind Game is one of them and I too think it occasionally isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing (especially when they started experimenting with stock photos at the beginning). Then there are moments that are so bizarre, yet so beautiful and expressive, it could not be described as anything other than sublime.

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So what do you feel about other anime that are commonly regarded as odd? Sublime? Pretty but doesn't integrate with the anime overall? Or maybe it has the looks only its mother could love. That is for you to decide.

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14 Responses to “From Bizarre to Sublime”

  1. ghostlightning Says:

    This may be strange, but the experience of weirdness, eccentricity, and sublimity is there for the taking in Turn A Gundam.

    I lack the ability to fully articulate it, but let me say that after a bunch of episodes you have a sense that anything can happen, despite the overall depiction staying close to ‘real robot’ style and aesthetic (even if in a weird, pre high-tech but not really way).

    It’s more like ‘you’ll know it when you see it.’

    I would especially like to see someone who isn’t a Gundam or mecha fan take on this show. Many of the references will be lost, but it isn’t critical — as they are mostly lost even on me (the franchise is really that vast).

  2. gaguri Says:

    Mmm I probably won’t be watching Turn A Gundam anytime soon (too many episodes…) but Gundam 00 is very high on my priority list. Victory Gundam and Turn A I might watch if I really like Gundam 00.

  3. muhootsaver Says:

    Interesting post. I too would say Mushishi was successful in transforming what could have been Bizarre (or rather cliche monster story) into a beautiful scenery. I still have to read your LOGH post but it’s so long!! ^^;; I’ll try to read it sometime later.

  4. Shadowmage Says:

    Why Gundam 00?

    It’s not really all that great. If you want a short Gundam series go for 0080: War in the Pocket which is only 6 OVA.

    Also, a common misconception is that how you enjoy one Gundam series reflects on how you would enjoy another. Unlike other long running franchises, the Gundam franchise really isn’t all that reverent of precedents. The focus, style and approach completely changes from director to director. I happen to enjoy most Gundam incarnations simply because I enjoy action and melodrama, not necessarily because of brand loyalty.

    On a completely different note, the first thing I thought of when I read the title was the 5th movie of Kara no Kyoukai. Considering that you have little respect for completion, I suggest you give it a go.

  5. gaguri Says:

    @muhootsaver

    Totally agreed on Mushishi 😀

    If possible, I would encourage you to skip first three paragraphs of my LOGH post and read just the last paragraph, as I think it is the most important (and interesting?) part.

    @Shadowmage

    Ah my bad…I didn’t mean 00…I meant 0080. You must forgive me, there’s just too much damn gundam out there to remember x_X

    I have heard good things about 5th movie of Kara no Kyoukai, although I wasn’t terribly impressed with the first movie. Do you need 2~4 to better appreciate 5? If so, then it would serve me better to watch them all.

  6. Shadowmage Says:

    Kara no Kyoukai is largely episodic. You really don’t need movies 2-4. There are a few abstract things you may miss, but quite honestly, I’ve missed them as well (and I probably wouldn’t have noticed them at all without the internet).

  7. Owen S Says:

    I can’t believe you forgot to mention Mononoke!

  8. gaguri Says:

    Haha…well, I’ve Mononoke is just one of many bizarre anime I’ve watched, so I didn’t want to make an entire tl;dr list. Besides, I wrote a whole post dedicated to Mononoke!

  9. omisyth Says:

    Kaiba flip-flops between the bizarre and the sublime for me, but I think that’s mostly got to do with how the music integrates into the scene as well.

  10. gaguri Says:

    I think how anime looks is only a part of why we would consider something bizarre/sublime. As you say, the way its form integrates with music must be a factor too.

  11. Flash Sword Irene Says:

    Gundam 0080 is actually the most accurate and defining portrayal of Yoshiyuki Tomino’s vision for his work. Ironically enough, Tomino himself was not in the director’s seat, yet the OVA is arguably the best piece of work in the entire franchise. Another short OVA (12 episodes) you might enjoy would be the M.S. 08th Team since it is the most easily accessible Gundam series compared to most. The M.S. 08th Team may not be as classic as 0080, yet it is something enjoyable in itself.

    In relation to the article itself, I would sugggest the works of Kihachiro Kawamoto who seems to be able to manipulate Japanese style puppet shows into an immersing film. The concept is bizarre, yet sublime as a result in what it pulls off with various influences utilized in his tales. Another director to check out is Naoyuki Tsuji since I have heard his works (in actual animation) are of the same type mentioned.

  12. gaguri Says:

    Yea 0080 and 08th are the ones I’m looking forward to, since they are shorter (and better?) compared to others.

    As for Kawamoto and Tsuji, I have heard of them but have not actually seen their work (<_<). But I know exactly what you mean. Once I saw this silhoute animation film called 'Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello' recommended by Wabisabi, which was basically animation of shadow figures projected onto beautiful CG objects and background. It had this beautiful feel of caveman storytelling but projected in modern context, unable to see the actual expressions and detailing of characters, but also finding something more abstract about that negative space at the same time. Was absolutely unique and stunning. I really should look for these doll films you mentioned, no doubt they will be unique and enlightening so thanks for the mention.

  13. Kitsune Says:

    I know you are waiting for the subs, but consider watching some Genius Party episodes without dialog 🙂

    Recently, I watched a lecture by Vilayanur Ramachandran on neurology of art. He hypothesized that there are several universal laws of art that have basis in brain functioning and showed results of the studies to back up his claims. For example, some stimuli illicit pleasant reaction in the spectator as measured by both subjective and physiological state. Perhaps, some unusual anime tap into our unconsciousness and turn bizarre into sublime 🙂

  14. gaguri Says:

    I practically gave up waiting for Genius Party subbed so I guess I’ll indulge myself then : D

    And woa, the lecture you’re talking about seems to be beyond my reach, but very interesting. Especially the part where you say unconsciousness, because I don’t think you can consciously be in a state of (what I’d like to call in this context) sublime.


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